Creative writing circle hosts fall feature reading

Home shown with pictures of Flannery O' Connor adorning the walls
Photos of author Flannery O'Connor adorn walls of the home. Note the exposed pipes and cracked plaster of the walls, both of which lend to the rural atmosphere of Andalusia. (Mary Ann Anderson/MCT)

The Whitsett Room in Sierra Hall was filled with CSUN students as the Northridge Creative Writing Circle (NCWC) hosted their Fall feature reading with guest speakers and award-winning authors Natashia Deon and Dana Johnson on Thursday night.

Dana Johnson, an American writer and associate professor at the University of Southern California, has been awarded with the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and named a nominee for the Hurston Wright Legacy Award. Johnson read a small portion of her new collection of short stories, “In The Not Quite Dark: Stories.”

Natashia Deon an attorney, writer, and law professor, was recently named one of L.A.’s “Most Fascinating People” by L.A. Weekly. Deon has been awarded fellowships and residencies at Yale, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and many more. Deon read a snippet of her new novel, “GRACE” during last nights reading.

NCWC president Sunny Williams and NCWC members feel that Deon and Johnson have released new works this year that they feel are extremely important for their culture of inclusivity.

“As two prominent African American authors, their voices are significant and poignant, and we look forward to exposing our students to work that seeks to overcome divides,” Williams said.

After the reading, Johnson and Deon stayed for a 15-minute Q&A, giving students writing advice, and a book signing for those who decided to purchase one of the two novels.

A significant question asked to both authors during the Q&A that may benefit many up and coming writers was in regards to navigating the fear one may have of sharing something so personal in a novel they are working on.

“You have to write as though no one you ever know is gonna read those words,” Deon said. “When I write sex scenes I tell myself my mom isn’t gonna read that, my bible studies group isn’t going to read that, and they do, so just go for it.”

“The trick that I play on myself is that I write everything as if no one will read it, I can’t think about what my dad is going to think or what my students are going to think,” Johnson said. “Another trick that’s not really a trick, but something you have to learn is to have thick skin.”

Another question that came from attendees towards the end of the Q&A was in reference to writers block and how to deal with it, or overcome it.

“I’m just gonna be straight up and say I have less block and more writers laziness,” Johnson said. “It’s not a block, there’s always something to write, I don’t really believe in a block. It’s like going to the gym, you can get on the treadmill and at least do 10 minutes.”

“I just write a sentence. Write one line, something funny or something sad,” Deon said. “One day you’ll write something down and you think its great, and the next you realize it’s not.”

The last piece of advice Johnson gave to students was the importance of understanding that sometimes the way in which people talk about writing is so pretentious, saying they need a desk and candles and a room full of renowned novels to write something great, but it’s not true.

“You don’t need a personal library, you just have to be at Starbucks or in line at the movies and take notes on your phone,” Johnson said.

Psychology major Stephanie Meslevich attended the reading in hopes of gaining some knowledge about writing as she considers becoming an English or Creative Writing minor.

“I thought it was interesting to come and actually see what a reading is like,” Meslevich said. “I learned a lot from the Q&A, how they started writing, where they get their inspiration from, and why they choose to write. It’s very inspiring.”

NCWC hosts one feature reading per semester. The readings are intended for NCWC members, but as the NCWC president Sunny Williams mentioned, it is also done with hopes to encourage students to join their circle of writers.

“The benefit is mostly knowledge gained for our members. We want them to be able to experience readings, and sometimes participate,” Williams said. “We also hope that a big event like this might encourage other students to join NCWC and our growing circle of writers who support and inspire each other.”